Why weren't there bishops in colonial America?

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Leacock, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. Leacock

    Leacock New Member

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    I'm curious why there were no bishops in America prior to the American Rebellion.

    I can understand that it may have been a sensitive subject in New England, but one would think the southern colonies had the population and institutional support for it. After all, how could anyone be confirmed, would they have had to travel all the way to England?

    For that matter, what dioceses did the colonial parishes report to?

    Curious if anyone knows the answer to this.
  2. Peteprint

    Peteprint Well-Known Member Anglican

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    High-Church Laudian
    I am not sure of the exact reasons they never consecrated a bishop for the colonies, but the Anglicans in the colonies had to answer to the bishop of London, if I remember correctly. They had to travel to England to be ordained, and most American colonists were never confirmed.
  3. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    New Zealand
    Let me try to answer your question. It would basically boil down to the Anglican church was weaker in pre rebellion times than we might expect.

    Massachusetts and Connecticut use to have established churches, and to enjoy full civil rights you had to belong to them, this was sadly revoked in 1691.
    In N. Carolina in 1730 there were reported to be no Anglican ministers and by 1741 there were only two. In 1679 it was also reported to be no Episcopal clergy in all of New England. Things were so bad it was only till 1675 that the requirement to get a clergy licence from the B. of London was introduced. In 1760 it was recorded at a clergy convention that 10 out of 51 clergy died on their way to and from ordination in England, which few could afford anyway.

    Things were done to try to remedy this situation. In 1638 Archbishop Laud took up the question of a bishop for Virginia.In the 1660's Dr Alexander Murray (a friend of Charles II) was nominated bishop of Virginia but was neither consecrated or sent out. Jonathon Swift was rumoured to be consecrated as the first bishop in America.
    In 1728 Bishop Edmund Gibson invited the clergy of Maryland to nominate someone he could consecrate as a suffragan bishop but the Government of Maryland forbade the candidate to travel to England.
    The other problems of bishops in America was, at the time bishops were; officers of state, sat in the house of Lords, and still had certain legal juristictions.

    There were legal issues with a bishop having to be approved by the sovereign and houses of Parliament. Would bishops be subject legal to measures if their see was outside British law juristiction? Whether the sovereign could appoint bishops for foreign parts under his or her (why can't English have a common gender singular third person pronoun) dominion due to an Act of Edward VI.

    Many Americans also were suspicious of bishops fearing they might become infused with political powers as they perceived the situation in England.
    Also some vestries especially in Virginia had got ( not gotten) use to running things their own way and resented the idea of a bishop Lauding lording it over them.

    P.s. All my info has come from Stephen Neill's book "Anglicanism"
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
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  4. Fidei Defensor

    Fidei Defensor Active Member

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    Kingdom of Heaven
    Part of it was that the Founding Fathers did not recognize a State Church, The Church of England, in fact that is the context of Thomas Jefferson’s famous statement, “there shall be a seperation of state and church: there shall be no state church.” The Founders did not want a COA (Church of America), hence the First Ammendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Since the Anglican Church is a State Church with the King or Queen being the Head of the Church of England. The Founders wanted to leave the Church apart from legislature and goverment.

    The Colonies were heavly influenced by the Settlers of Pilgrims and later the Puritans, who both protested against the COA/Anglican Church. This could have been a reason for no bishops of the COA.